When an Afghanistan war veteran returned to his Florida home to find two ex-convicts had moved into his house and changed the locks, he never imagined he’d have to enter into a lengthy legal battle to get them out.
U.S. Army Spc. Michael Sharkey and his wife Danielle live in Wahiawa, Hawaii, where he is currently stationed. The couple also owns in a home in New Port Richey, Fla., where they intend to return next month.
Sharkey says a couple, Julio Ortiz and his girlfriend Fatima Cardoso, broke into his house, changed the locks and refuse to leave.
When he called authorities, the Pasco County Sheriff's department informed the Sharkeys they have no legal grounds to evict the squatters.
Ortiz, 42, told a local news channel that Sharkey gave him permission to live in the house and that they had a verbal agreement that he would make repairs to the home in exchange for rent-free housing.
Sharkey and his housesitter Lisa Pettus say Ortiz is lying.
Pettus, who was left in charge of the unfinished home while the family lived in Hawaii, says Ortiz was hired as a handyman and was never given permission to live in the house.
Police refuse to throw Ortiz out of the house saying it’s a civil matter.
“I work hard, long hours, and these people never had permission to live in my home,” Sharkey told WFLA. “They should be thrown out.”
Both Ortiz and Cardoso have extensive rap sheets. Ortiz served a combined 12 years behind bars in New Jersey for robbery, drug dealing on school property and carjacking, the Daily Mail reported.
Cardoso has served more than two years on drug charges and has been arrested seven times on drug charges since 2011, according to WFLA.
“They are criminals,” Sharkey said. “I am serving my country, and they have more rights to my home than I do.”